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Vagabond volleyball player helped club teams win national championships in three countries

By Terry Boehmker
NKyTribune sports reporter

Stephanie Niemer’s vagabond volleyball career could be coming to an end. Over the last eight years, the St. Henry graduate has played on professional club teams in five different counties, but she’s feeling the need to settle down.

“I’d like to retire from volleyball and get a real job and have that normal schedule of life,” said the 29-year-old Erlanger native. “We’ll see what happens, getting a job isn’t as easy as it sounds.”

Stephanie Niemer has played on national champion volleyball club teams the last three years.

If Niemer does close the book on her playing career, the final chapter is one she’ll always remember. Two weeks ago, she was named most valuable player in the Philippine Superliga Grand Prix national tournament after leading her Petron Blaze Spikers team to victory in the championship final.

The 6-foot-1 outside hitter scored 31 points in the five-game match with 28 kills, two blocks and a service ace. She finished it off with a cross-court kill that won the final set.

This is the third straight year that Niemer has helped win a national tournament. In 2017, she was on Puerto Rico’s championship team. Last year, she played for a team in Greece that took the league championship and then won the CEV Women’s Cup in Europe.

“The championships are always the best,” she said. “It’s just kind of like, all your hard work has paid off type of thing. That and just traveling and seeing the world has been the most exciting part of it all.”

Niemer’s professional volleyball career began after her senior season at the University of Cincinnati when she was named 2010 Player of the Year in the Big East Conference.

She said one her college coaches put her in touch with a sports agent, who negotiated a contract for her to play in Puerto Rico, which allows each team to have two foreign-born players on the roster.

“That’s kind of how it all started, and every year it’s just been him finding me some good jobs,” Niemer said.

In 2014, she started playing in Europe, where the season lasts eight months instead of four. After spending one season with a team in France and one with a team in Azerbaijan, she went to the Philippines and joined the Petron Blaze Spikers for the 2016 season.

With Niemer as one of two foreign-born players in its lineup, Petron made it to the 2016 Superliga Grand Prix championship final and lost. But she returned this year and helped the Blaze Spikers take the title.

“There was some pressure, but I didn’t really recognize it,” she said. “It was the same team I was on a few years ago, but they had won the championship last year and there was pressure for them to win it again.”

Niemer said each club team paid for her housing and provided transportation. She used her free time to go sightseeing and sample the local cuisine. She took photos at the Eiffel Tower, the islands of Greece and other faraway places that she shared with family and friends back home via Facebook.

“It was crazy,” she said. “Sometimes I’d sit in my apartment at two in the afternoon and I’d be done for the day and could do whatever I wanted. It seemed like I was living the life of a retired grandparent or something.”

It’s been an interesting and rewarding eight years as a globe-trotting pro athlete, but Niemer feels like the time has come to use her degree in business marketing to make a living.

“I want to, but I think its easier said than done,” she said. “Volleyball has been my livelihood and whenever you walk away from something you’re always going to miss that life.”



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